The Queen's Belt

Vicky is an ordinary 16-year-old girl from Edinburg. Accidentally, she comes into possession of a stone, which leads her to a time portal. Vicky becomes involved in the search for a stolen ancient artifact. Not fully in control of her time travel ability, she takes a chance and travels to a prehistoric world. There she lives with a female Amazon tribe and learns horse riding and archery. But will she find the stolen relic and be able to come back home?

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6. Chapter 6: The Rose of Scythia

~~When Vicky entered Khase’s tent, she saw Khase dressed in the same long robe she had worn on the day of Vicky’s arrival to the camp. She was sitting on the floor. She looked up at Vicky and made a gesture inviting Vicky to sit down with her. Vicky sat down where she stood. Then Khase broke the silence.
“Greetings, traveler,” she said.
“Greetings,” responded Vicky.
Vicky sneaked a glance round the tent. When her eyes returned to Khase, her gaze stopped at the golden amulet embellishing the Shamaness’s robe. Sitting close to Khase, Vicky could see the familiar details of an amazing craftsmanship: a female figure whose legs turned into tentacle-like formations ending in the floral ornament of a circular shape.
“I see you are interested in this,” commented Khase.
“No, I just… I’ve seen it before … in a museum,” answered Vicky.
“Where?” asked Khase lifting her eyebrows. Khase’s facial expression indicated that a museum was not a familiar term to her. Vicky had no time to speculate about how the talking stone might have translated the word to the Shamaness, nor how Vicky herself could explain what a museum was. “Never mind, I just wanted to say that I have seen it before,” repeated Vicky.
“You speak in many words,” observed Khase.
“Yes, I suppose I do,” said Vicky.
“I mean you, travelers,” specified Khase.
“Oh, you mean that I am not the only one? Were there other travelers like me here?” asked Vicky.
“Yes, there was a man before you.”
“An old man?” guessed Vicky hoping that it could be her grandpa.
“Not as old as I am, but quite old. As old as Swaseeia.”
“Is Swaseeia old?” asked surprised Vicky.
“She is not young anymore,” followed Khase’s reply.
Vicky thought that these women must have a very different perception of age. She would have said that Swaseeia was perhaps in her late twenties, older than Vicky of course, but not someone she would have considered old. Khase was the oldest inhabitant of the camp whom Vicky had met so far. She was the only woman here who was over fifty.   
“Well, what about yourself then,” thought Vicky silently mocking Khase, “you must be ancient then.” Aloud she said: “So there was a traveler like me, of about Swaseeia’s age. I wonder who he was.”
“It was after his visit that Skeleiei’s belt disappeared,” said Khase, “we think he took it.”
“But, there was no old man then. A very old man, older than you?”
“I saw a very old man in a trance once. The same way that Skeleiei saw you.”
An idea sprang into Vicky’s mind.
“Really? Do you think you could recognize him if I showed him to you again?” asked Vicky hopefully. “Only,” Vicky hesitated, “I don’t have my bag with me. I need my bag. Can I go fetch it?”
“There is no need,” said Khase calmly. She clapped her hands twice and Swaseeia appeared. “Bring Wagma’s belongings,” ordered Khase.
“Right away,” answered Swaseeia in her usual energetic manner.
“It’s in your… ” Swaseeia disappeared before Vicky gave the location of the backpack. Vicky pronounced the aimless “tent”, finishing her sentence just for the sake of it. The sound of the galloping horse followed almost immediately after Swaseeia’s departure.
Khase resumed the conversation:
“The man who visited us and you travel in a strange way: you appear and disappear as it pleases you. How do you do it?”
When these words were said, chills ran up and down Vicky’s spine: She came to Khase in hope that she would learn how to control the time portal so she could get back home. Now it seemed as if Khase herself had no idea about the portal’s location here in Scythia, or how it worked.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know it myself. I found this … well … stone, which led me to a door, and through this door I came to you,” said Vicky thinking how bizarre her explanation must have sounded. She expected Khase to be completely puzzled, yet Khase looked as if she got a clear answer to her question.
“I understand,” she said in return.
“You do?” asked surprised Vicky, “because I don’t.”
Still sitting opposite, Vicky glanced past Khase to the opposite side of the tent and saw that there was another overlap of the pieces of animal skin, which the tent was made of. It looked like another entrance into the tent. For a moment Vicky saw a movement in the drapes, which seemed as if someone was about to enter the tent. Vicky must have stared at the opening very intensely because Khase asked: “What is it? What are you looking at, child?”
“Well, for a moment I thought that someone was about to enter through that opening,” explained Vicky pointing at the opposite side of the tent, behind Khase.
“What opening?” Khase turned around to look behind, only to turn back and look inquisitively back at Vicky.
“Well, that entrance. Or exit, if you like.”
“You say that there is an entrance into this tent behind me?” asked Khase as if to confirm that she understood Vicky correctly.
Vicky thought it strange that Khase seemed unfamiliar with her own tent.
“There is no entrance behind me, Wagma,” insisted Khase, who now had a contemplative look. “Maybe, this is how you travel,” she continued, “maybe this opening can make you disappear.”
Khase’s words made sense. Vicky looked back at Khase and once again her eyes rested on the Shamaness’s amulet.
“Of course, the amulet,” Vicky almost jumped to her feet in excitement. “It opens the portal, I mean… the door!” she exclaimed excitedly. “See, the last thing I saw when I entered the door was this same amulet. I told you I saw it before!”
“You speak the truth, child. The traveler man was in my tent when he disappeared. And the Rose of Scythia was with me too,” said Khase pensively.
 “What is the Rose of Scythia?”
 “This is,” said Khase touching the amulet.
“What a beautiful name,” replied Vicky thoughtfully and then repeated: “the Rose of Scythia. It does resemble a rose if you look from a distance.”
Vicky was relieved: Now she knew where the portal was or how she could find it. “So if I want to go home, I just visit you, Khase,” theorized Vicky. “Do you always wear the Rose of Scythia?”
“Not always, but almost,” answered Khase.
“So then wherever the amulet is, the portal will open … but how do I,” Vicky was thinking aloud now, “I mean how do I know when or where I end up when I enter the portal?”
“Only you have this experience,” said Khase trying to help Vicky with her problem, “our wisdom says: “if you succeeded, repeat your success.” What did you do to get here?”
“Well, I don’t think I did anything. I just entered the door and ended up on the outskirts of your camp.”
“Yes, I saw you arrive. I was nearby,” remarked Khase.
 “I haven’t noticed you. But this makes sense: if you were nearby … were you wearing the amulet?”
“Yes,” answered Khase, who looked as if she was following Vicky’s line of thought.
“Great!” exclaimed Vicky, “This means that I appear where the Rose of Scythia is. This means that I will go back exactly to the spot where the amulet is right now in … well … where I come from.”
The sound of a galloping horse interrupted Vicky’s excited theorizing of how the time portal worked.
“Swaseeia has returned,” concluded Khase.
“I hope, she’s found my bag,” said Vicky doubtfully.
“She’s found it,” asserted Khase.
In this instant, Swaseeia entered the tent holding Vicky’s backpack.
“Great!” Vicky still sounded excited because of her discovery.
Swaseeia handed the backpack to Vicky and left the tent. Immediately, Vicky dug inside the backpack and fished out her wallet. She decided not to shock Khase with her phone: a wallet with a picture in it would probably be shocking enough for the old lady.
Before Vicky had even had the chance of opening her wallet, Khase took it out of Vicky’s hand and turned it from side to side investigating the object, which obviously was nothing she had seen before. Nevertheless, Vicky was amazed at how little reaction she could observe on Khase’s face. Vicky took the liberty of helping the Shamaness open the wallet so her grandpa’s picture would be visible.
“Is this the man you saw in your trance?” she asked pointing at a small photograph in a transparent plastic pocket.
Khase carefully studied the image of Vicky’s grandpa. Instead of answering Vicky’s question, she started whispering something very quietly to herself. For a moment Vicky got that eerie feeling you get when a madman talking to himself walks past you on a street or sits opposite you on a bus. Vicky could not hear all what Khase was saying. Only separate words reached her ears: “The oracle”, “secure”, “return” and “was right”.
Then Khase stopped whispering and looked at Vicky.
“This man is dead,” she stated in a determined manner.
“Yes, I know,” said Vicky trying to control a sudden wave of tears caused by the overwhelming desire to see grandpa again.
“Is he the one you saw in the trance?” Vicky repeated her question.
“Yes. I thought he was the oracle. He knew about the stolen belt. He didn’t have the belt, but he promised to search for it.”
Vicky considered this to be the good news: If grandpa did not have the belt but proposed to find it, then it probably was not he who had stolen the belt in the first place. Besides, according to Khase, grandpa had never visited the camp. What Khase and Skeleiei referred to as “visions” or “trances” were probably the times when Vicky or her grandpa communicated with the women by means of the bubble produced by the talking stone.
Thinking about grandpa made Vicky sad.
“You grieve his death,” said Khase understandingly.
“He was my grandfather,” explained Vicky.
“Who?” asked Khase.
“Oh no,” thought Vicky, “they don’t have men here.” Out loud she said: “He was my … uhm… ancestor.”
Khase noticed the change in Vicky’s voice. “I understand,” she confirmed.
Vicky felt a tear sneak its way down her cheek. She felt embarrassed for not being able to control herself in front of a relative stranger.
“You are among friends. You can cry here. We are warriors, but when we grieve, we cry. When one of us dies, we grieve her death,” said Khase with sadness in her voice.
Khase’s words helped. Vicky was no longer embarrassed. She let herself weep and sob as much as she desired.
“We grieve the death and we cry. But there is no life without death. Death gives new life. We hunt: We kill in order to live. Death is necessary for life. This is what Tabbitti tells us,” explained Khase.
“Who is Tabbitti?”
“She is our goddess. She protects warriors and hunters. She is Tabbitti,” Khase pointed at the figure of the woman in the center of her amulet. “Look at her legs and her hair. They never end, they become a circle: Life becomes death and death becomes life.”
With her eyes filled with tears, everything looked blurry to Vicky. Nevertheless, Vicky knew what Khase was pointing at. Vicky had studied the details of the amulet thoroughly back when she saw its drawing in grandpa’s file.
“Yes, I get it,” said Vicky. For a moment she forgot that some of her expressions perhaps sounded ridiculous or just strange to the camp women. She noticed Khase’s confused face expression and realized that “I get it” probably does not make much sense to her. “I mean, I understand what you are saying, Khase,” Vicky hastened to add.
When Vicky left Khase’s tent, she felt that her sadness was gone. Even thinking about grandpa did not cause the bitter lump of tears to appear in her throat. She felt relieved after her visit to Khase. The information she received let her feel more in control of the remarkable chain of events which she had experienced after the accidental discovery of the talking stone in her grandpa’s study.
Now Vicky also had a clue which she could follow in order to find out more about the stolen belt: the mysterious man in his mid-twenties who had visited the camp earlier on. Vicky had to find out who he was, although as yet she did not know where to begin.

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